CULTURE: Marvel’s New ‘Iron Man’ Character Is Full of Black Girl Magic

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Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Behold, Iron Maiden. Well, actually, behold Marvel‘s newest character designed to fill Tony Stark’s armored suit. She has yet to be given an exclusive heroine moniker, but she does have a name: Riri Williams.

And she exudes black girl magic.

Riri was first introduced in Invincible Iron Man #7. Tony Stark meets the 15-year-old science prodigy after she successfully creates a mock-up Iron Man suit in her MIT dorm. And what’s a girl genius to do once she’s completed a masterpiece like that? Why, construct a mission to catch fugitives in New Mexico while in flight, of course. Her spirit and ingenuity quickly catch the eye of Stark’s right hand man, James Rhodes, who then introduces her to Iron Man himself.

The bold casting and character creation is another giant step in furthering the diversity at Marvel. And although comic fans have experienced similar changes with the debuts of Miles Morales and Kamala Khan, there still remains a minimal few resistant to Riri’s role.

“Some of the comments online, I don’t think people even realize how racist they sound. I’m not saying if you criticize you’re a racist, but if someone writes, “Why do we need Riri Williams we already have Miles?” that’s a weird thing to say. They’re individuals just like Captain America and Cyclops are individuals. All I can do is state my case for the character, and maybe they’ll realize over time that that’s not the most progressive thinking.” – Co-Creator, Brian Michael Bendis

Still, Bendis makes it clear that the incoming adoration for these changes overshadows all negativity:

“Increasingly we see less and less of that. Once Miles hit, and Kamala Khan hit and female Thor hit — there was a part of an audience crawling through the desert looking for an oasis when it came to representation, and now that it’s here, you’ll go online and be greeted with this wave of love.”

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Without a doubt, it’s clear that Marvel has big plans for Riri. Clues have been picked up in the discussion of her backstory, as well as her front and center placement in a Marvel NOW! teaser. Bendis also insists that the result of the character is not to hop onto a trend for the sake of filling a diversity quota. Riri was created organically,

“One of the things that stuck with me when I was working in Chicago a couple of years ago on a TV show that didn’t end up airing was the amount of chaos and violence. And this story of this brilliant, young woman whose life was marred by tragedy that could have easily ended her life — just random street violence — and went off to college was very inspiring to me. I thought that was the most modern version of a superhero or superheroine story I had ever heard. And I sat with it for awhile until I had the right character and the right place.”

And what say of our genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist? Where is he going? Word on the street is that Tony Stark will be on a much needed path for self discovery and insight. We’ll just have to stay tuned for the Civil War II climax to find out.

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About

When she's not getting lost in fantastical worlds with the fictional characters she writes, Tia tends to lead something of a normal life. She enjoys the hours of her day by sifting through comics at her local comic book shop, blogging as a pop culture analyst, writing multicultural fantasy, watching "Tangled" and One Direction videos on repeat with her toddler, playing air guitar to Thin Lizzy, connecting life with '90s film quotes and finding new ways to sneak a bite of pizza when she knows she shouldn't. You can find her tweeting here and there, @tatixtia.

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